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SA’s COVID-19 cases surpass half a million

At least 10,000 new cases were picked up in the last 24-hour cycle, consolidating this country as the hardest-hit on the continent where it accounts for more than half of Africa’s entire case load.

FILE: A City of Tshwane Health official takes a nasal swab to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus on a taxi operator at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on 11 June 2020. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Less than five months after South Africa confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the number of known infections in the country has now risen pass the half a million mark.

At least 10,107 new cases were picked up in the last 24-hour cycle, consolidating this country as the hardest-hit on the continent where it accounts for more than half of Africa’s entire case load.

South Africa also has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world after the United States, Brazil, Russia and India.

At least 148 more people have succumbed to the virus hear at home, pushing the national death toll to 8,153.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said government was working hard to fix the logistical and other problems that have led to a shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers in several parts of the country.

His acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale said: “This month the national ventilator project will deliver 20,000 locally produced non-invasive ventilators to where they are most needed. A dedicated team is preparing to manufacture doses of a successful vaccine locally.”

The Western Cape still accounts for the highest number of fatalities, with more than 3,000 deaths recorded in the province. Gauteng has the most infections, now past the 178,000 mark.

South Africa imposed a nationwide lockdown at the end of March to curb the spread of the virus, but it has now eased many restrictions to boost economic activity - as have other countries across the continent, a large chunk of whose populations are poor and face hunger.

“The lockdown succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a separate statement.

As restrictions have eased, infections have spiked over the last two months.

However, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the worst-hit Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces, Ramaphosa added.

The World Health Organisation’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan last week warned that South Africa’s experience was a precursor for what was likely to happen across the continent.

The difficulty - if not outright impossibility - of socially distancing in Africa’s poor, tightly packed urban areas, has also been an enabler for the spread of the virus.

Cases in South Africa, which has the fifth highest total in the world, have overwhelmed an already stretched healthcare system.

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